For many months, AT&T has been dangling a tantalizing risk: what if its community allow you to immediately strive blockbuster video games for free? The firm began by generically bundling free six-month subscriptions to Google Stadia after which started letting its clients stream full copies of Batman: Arkham Knight and Control over the web. Next, it hinted at one thing much more intriguing: a try-before-you-buy sport service the place you might strive a sport instantly from a search outcome, purchase and obtain a full copy as soon as you identify you want it, and choose up proper the place you left off.
No present cloud gaming service affords something of the kind.
But, after chatting with the person answerable for these AT&T initiatives, we’ve discovered that AT&T isn’t planning to create such a factor itself. In reality, the corporate’s experiments aren’t pointing towards a cloud gaming business in any respect.
“We’re not going to turn it into a business,” says Matthew Wallace, AT&T’s assistant vp of 5G product and innovation. “Our goal in life is not to provide a gaming app or gaming service; it’s to provide the underlying network capability and then make those capabilities available to the gaming companies and customers.”
I ask the query different methods, too, simply to be certain I’m understanding appropriately. Would AT&T need to present the lacking items of that try-before-you-buy imaginative and prescient? “We’re not interested in launching a gaming service for that,” Wallace says. The firm has current relationships with Google and Microsoft, so it’s not investing in building out a cloud community of its personal to draw sport publishers, nor does it have one other free sport like Batman or Control lined up; Wallace says AT&T’s trying for its subsequent accomplice there now.
What does AT&T need out of cloud gaming, then? Wallace, a 25-year AT&T veteran, was prepared to be candid. His function with it solely dates again to 2019, and it began as a take a look at case for 5G — only one notably helpful instance of a troublesome but probably fascinating community load that takes benefit of the faster connectivity. “Gaming, especially cloud gaming, was one of the very first things that popped to the forefront,” he says.
So the job was to accomplice with gaming firms and work out how the community might higher serve their wants. “Our focus is what we can do in the network to make sure the customer session has the right characteristics,” says Wallace. That consists of not solely radio efficiency but additionally optimized paths for all the information going by means of the community, shortening the time it takes to journey “from the mobile core to where the applications are,” amongst different hops.
A poorly understood reality about cloud gaming is that a fast-in-terms-of-download-speed connection isn’t quick sufficient. Far extra necessary is latency — right here, the time it takes for your button press to make its technique to a distant server, transfer your sport character, and make its means all the way in which again to your display screen. Wallace says AT&T has discovered that each pace and latency must be constant for cloud gaming and that consistency has “definitely held back cellular networks.” That’s what the corporate’s engaged on with these public assessments.
And there, AT&T might have a thought on how one can dramatically enhance the consistency, but it’s a probably controversial one. Wallace says the corporate’s been testing quality-of-service changes that might “ensure resources are allocated to customers who are using a cloud gaming app.” In different phrases, AT&T might prioritize cloud gaming makes use of over other forms of knowledge — one thing that might fly within the face of web neutrality rules. (Net neutrality is largely useless within the US but alive in California, and it might be coming again nationally.)
Mind you, Wallace says AT&T’s solely been testing this internally within the lab and within the subject. “It’s not something we’ve been offering live yet,” he says. “We have not figured out go-to-market on any of these things, but you could imagine a future where for the right service levels, gaming just works for the customer — they don’t have to do anything special.”
I’m torn. Cloud gaming has to “just work” if it’s ever going to succeed, but it certain seems like AT&T’s serious about paid prioritization with that “right service levels” remark. If I needed to choose, I’d choose web neutrality.